WASHINGTON – The implosion in Congress of the Obamacare modification plan from House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., left the nation dealing with the continuation of the failing Democratic health-care takeover at least until another plan is developed and goes through the process.
But if there’s no consensus soon on a federal budget, the impact could be bigger: a government shutdown.
President Trump has sent Congress a controversial emergency budget proposal to reallocate $54 billion for defense spending, boosting the Pentagon’s budget by 10 percent.
But Republicans in appropriations in both the U.S. House and Senate have to reach agreement, and do that by the deadline of April 28.
The congressional spending package request, titled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” also would send another $3 billion to border security, half of which would to jump-start construction of the first 62 miles for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
The DHS would be given more funds to prepare for hiring additional immigration law enforcement officers and agents. Finally the request funds an increased immigration detention capacity, which is necessary to ensure the removal of illegal aliens from the United States.
In an attempt to downsize government, a central goal of conservatives, the money for defense and border security would be pulled from, among other locations, $18 billion in unspecified cuts to domestic programs.
The administration also asked Congress for a 28 percent, or $10.9 billion, cut in State Department funding and other international programs to help pay for the hike in military spending next year. This trade-off like will face headwinds in a closely divided Senate, where support of at least eight Democrat traditionally would be needed to pass any spending measure.
The Trump administration sent another blueprint for the trillion-dollar spending legislation to the House and Senate appropriations committees on Friday.
The proposal would cut funding most dramatically from the Senate’s Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee, which oversees the largest individual spending bill. Its budget would be decreased by $7.26 billion by slashing grant funding from the NIH and eliminating Americorps. NIH would see a $1.23 billion cut.
The State and Foreign Operations subcommittee faces the next largest cut of approximately $2.88 billion. The Trump administration wants to cut the same amount from the State Department’s core functions, like peacekeeping, and its foreign-aid programs at USAID.
The Environmental Protection Agency would see a 31 percent cut of $2.6 billion, the State Department would undergo a 28 percent proposed cut of $11 billion, the Labor Department’s budget would be slashed by 21 percent or $2.5 billion , the Department of Agriculture 21 percent or $4.7 billion and the Army Corps of Engineers 16 percent or $1 billion. HUD programs are also on the chopping block, with a $1.68 billion cutback.
The White House also wants to eliminate 19 agencies, including the Legal Services Corp., the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Appalachian Regional Commission. Spending for all of the agencies blueprinted for extinction amounts to approximately $3 billion.
Republicans, who have control of the White House, Congress and the Senate, failed to unite the party last week on an Obamacare overhaul and observers expect there also will be a struggle to finalize a spending package before the rapidly approaching deadline.
Several top House appropriators have already indicated that they are prepared to reject Trump’s call to gut programs they deem important, and they argue that the White House weighed in too late in the process to affect the outcome.
“These increases in defense come at the expense of national security,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has been routinely and boisterously criticizing Trump since the 2016 presidential race.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who like Graham ran an unsuccessful bid for the White House in 2016, leveled similar sentiments.
“I do not support the proposed 28 percent cut to our international affairs budget and diplomatic efforts led by the State Department,” Rubio said in a March 16 statement. “These programs are integral to our national security, and cuts at these levels undermine America’s ability to keep our citizens safe.”
Some prominent Republicans in the House of Representatives expressed similar sentiments.
“The president’s proposal would abandon months of bipartisan negotiations, and break from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, by redirecting even more money to the Pentagon by further slashing non-defense spending in Fiscal Year 2017,” said Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This is not acceptable.”
Still swooning over the implosion of the Obamacare fix effort, Democrats see little reason to give in to conservatives’ demands and are predictably vowing to block any legislation that includes a single penny for the wall.
“Senate Democrats are prepared to fight this all the way,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said Tuesday. “Instead of spending taxpayer dollars on a pointless wall, we should be investing in creating jobs and fixing our infrastructure.”
A large majority of American blamed congressional Republicans for the last shutdown in 2013, when the GOP waged a budget standoff, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, with Senate Democrats and President Obama over Obamacare funding.
The record reveals that the shutdown happened because the two chambers of Congress couldn’t agree on appropriations for the government. The Republican-led House of Representatives, which must originate all spending bills, had offered several plans but they were refused by the then-Democrat-led Senate.
Polls showed 53 percent of Americans perceived the GOP responsible.
To avoid a repeat this year, Congress is eyeing a short-term measure known as a continuing resolution. This could bundle the roughly 12 spending bills together, despite Ryan pledging last year to try to end that practice.
House Republicans are eyeing the prospect of defunding Planned Parenthood through the continuing resolution, but Senate Democrats, even though in a minority, could filibuster the imperative legislation and shut down the government.
Lawmakers are crunched for time because they are scheduled to be in session only a 12 legislative days between now and the deadline, according to the House calendar. Congress will take a roughly two-week recess starting Friday.
After exhaustive battles over health care, Trump’s cabinet and Supreme Court nominees, and ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Congress has not yet finished its most basic responsibilities of funding the government.
The president’s plan has languished in obscurity as Republicans in Congress waged an intraparty battle over the health-insurance bill.
House and Senate appropriators will purportedly have a bill ready the week of April 24, House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing said Monday.